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Starbucks dumps milk made with rBGH bovine growth hormone

Tuesday, January 23, 2007 by: Jessica Fraser
Tags: rGBH, Monsanto, recombinant bovine growth hormone


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(NewsTarget) Starbucks Coffee -- the world's largest retailer of specialty coffee -- announced last week that it was switching many of its stores in western states and New England to milk free of the controversial artificial hormone rBGH, a move experts say will further harm Monsanto's declining sales of the hormone.

The coffee giant announced on Jan. 17 that it had decided to make 37 percent of its dairy products rBGH-free in a number of its stores in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Montana, New Mexico, Northern California and New England.

The artificial hormone -- created by Monsanto and sold as Posilac -- is given to roughly one-third of America's 9 million dairy cows to increase milk production and boost farmers' per-cow revenues. However, consumer advocacy groups have opposed rBGH since the FDA approved it in 1993, claiming its full effects on humans are unknown, and it can boost the risk of developing cancer.

Monsanto was aware in late 2006 that increasing consumer demand for hormone-free milk could lead to lower profits. In November, the company issued a warning to investors: "We believe some processor requests for 'r-BST-free' milk, coupled with rising feed costs, could limit our future sales."

However, higher demand for dairy products free of rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) could mean higher profits for companies that produce organic dairy products, such as Dean Foods' "Horizon" brand organic milk. According to Dean Foods spokesperson Marguerite Copel, Starbucks' switch to hormone-free milk in many locations could mean booming business.

"We see it as an opportunity -- we don't see it as a negative -- to provide more choices to consumers," Copel said.

According to consumer health advocate Mike Adams, author of "Grocery Warning," grassroots journalism and internet activism helped bring about Starbucks' change.

"This decision shows the reach of the internet in educating consumers about the dangers of food additives and factory farming practices that powerful corporations would rather keep silent," Adams said. "Corporations may continue to try to shove frankenfoods down the throats of American consumers, but their efforts to hoodwink consumers and bribe government regulators are being exposed by grassroots journalism and passionate reporting from honest consumer groups."

While smaller coffee chains have been in contact with Starbucks to determine where they can purchase rBST-free dairy products for their consumers, larger retailers have also jumped on the hormone-free milk bandwagon.

Earlier this week, Safeway announced that its milk suppliers in Washington and Oregon would no longer be using rBGH to increase milk production.

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